Russian President Vladimir Putin hopes to send Russian lawmakers to lobby Congress against a strike against Syria.
According to a report by the Interfax news agency, Putin has signaled his support for a proposal made by two Russian lawmakers to send a delegation to Washington.
The initiative, championed by Russian legislators Valentina Matvienko and Sergei Naryshkin, still requires formal approval by the country's Foreign Ministry — although an informal group of Russian lawmakers may decide to travel on their own.
There's precedent for Russian parliament members to travel to the U.S., according to the Associated Press. Last summer, a delegation visited Capitol Hill in an unsuccessful bid to keep Congress from passing sanctions against Russian officials believed to be responsible for the imprisonment and death of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who revealed fraud perpetuated by tax officials.
The proposed delegation comes at a particularly thorny time in U.S.-Russia relations, with Moscow adamantly opposed to any American military intervention in Syria. The Kremlin has questioned a U.S. intelligence report showing with "high confidence" that the Assad regime launched a chemical weapons attack last month, and warned against any use of force.
Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — EPA finalizing rule cutting HFCs Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — Senate Finance chair backs budget action on fossil fuel subsidies Kerry: 'We can't get where we need to go' in climate fight if China isn't joining in MORE told ABC News on Sunday that the administration had offered Russians a briefing on its intelligence assessment.
"In fact, we sent people over to Russia who provided evidence we had with respect to the last [chemical weapons attack]," Kerry said. "And they chose – I literally mean chose – not to believe it or to at least acknowledge publicly. I think this evidence is going to be overwhelming. If the President of Russia chooses yet again to ignore it, that’s his choice."
Russia is a strong ally of Syria's. It has a naval base in Syria and is a major seller of arms to the government of Bashar Assad.
President Obama has also tussled with Putin in recent months over his decision to allow Edward Snowden, the former defense contractor responsible for leaking details of top-secret National Security Agency surveillance programs, temporary asylum, as well as a spate of new anti-gay laws passed ahead of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.